Toronto Raptors 123, Brooklyn Nets 117.
Let’s get that out of the way.
This was a game that never should have been played, or at least never should have been played the way it was. It was an embarrassment.
The Raptors came into the game thinking they were going to get the new-look Nets and the three-headed offensive monster of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. It had been the talk of the past two days. How were the Raptors going to stop the Nets trio? Then, after warming up with his teammates pre-game, Durant was suddenly unavailable to start the game due to the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Eight minutes later, he suddenly appeared on the sideline as if nothing happened. He was reportedly cleared by the league to play after being pulled due to "an abundance of caution," according to ESPN.
Durant played 19 minutes on Friday, went 3-for-8 from the floor, scored eight points, and sweat all over his teammates and the Raptors. In traditional Raptors style, everyone took a turn defending the Nets' superstar.
Up one with 9:06 to go in the third quarter, the Nets called a timeout. Durant sat down in the huddle to get the play from coach Steve Nash and that was the last we saw of him. He was pulled from the game once again due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
With the game still being played, news broke that Durant's close contact had indeed tested positive for COVID-19.
How could this happen? Why was Durant ever cleared to play?
"Without having a ton of information here, the protocols are kind of far-reaching sometimes. You don’t know exactly what the nature of exactly the scenario is," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "I think that the league errs on the side of over-caution here on most of these things from what our experiences have been. I imagine they felt comfortable with whatever the scenario was to let him come back."
It was the culmination of what's been an embarrassing week for the NBA.
It was just three days ago the league decided to go ahead with the 2021 All-Star Game despite COVID-19 continuing to ravage the country and interfere with games on a nightly basis. The league decided the value of the game was more important than anything else.
"It's a business, it's a big TV thing," Kyle Lowry said. "It's a big thing for the TV networks. It is what it is. And this situation, you kind of got to ask the guys that will be for sure All-Stars. I'm sure everyone wants a break. Personally, I don't have a real-life answer for you. I understand the business of the All-Star game."
Ask the players who will be involved? How about LeBron James who doesn't want to game to take place?
"We're also still dealing with a pandemic," James said Thursday night. "We're still dealing with everything that's been going on, and we're going to bring the whole league into one city that's open? Obviously, the pandemic has absolutely nothing to do with it at this point when it comes to that weekend."
This is a league that suggested giving its players vaccination priority in order to bring awareness to the vaccination rollout. The NBA wanted to be leaders in the fight against COVID-19. This week has shown it's not about COVID-19 safety. It's about money.
Pascal Siakam & Kyle Lowry's Big Nights Overshadowed
The Durant conundrum completely overshadowed what was a very impressive win for the Raptors who moved to 10-12 on the season. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry led the way scoring the quietest 33 and 30 points, respectively. It was the second straight game in which Lowry had an all-time performance that will be almost completely forgotten from the night.
"He was really, really, really good from start to finish," Nurse said of Lowry. "He just really took his shots with confidence, made really hard drives and then at the end of some of them he found the right guy to dump it off to. So he was doing it all."
Up Next: Atlanta Hawks
The Raptors will be right back at it on Saturday night when they head to Atlanta to take on the Hawks. As of post-game, the Raptors were still planning to fly to Atlanta on Friday night.